Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lloyd-Jones 'Spiritual Depression' (I)

Since this is such an outstanding book, I plan to summarise & review it in a few sections - giving time for a detailed outline summary, as well as a few 'Towner's Thoughts' along the way. Hopefully there'll be more of him than me...

George Verwer called it 'one of the most outstanding books that has ever been written ... the greatest Christian book of all time.' To me, this seems a little hyperbolic, but it is a good book. The Doctor deals with what he perceives as 'the greatest need of the hour ... a revived and joyful Church' (from the original Forward) which is a message as relevant today as in 1965, when these sermons were originally preached.

1. General Consideration
"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." (
Ps 42:5)

The Psalmist is unhappy, which 'spiritual depression' is the focus of this sermon series - a subject found frequently within Scripture. The issue is important for the sake of those suffering such depression, and also for the glory of God's kingdom: 'In a sense a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor recommendation for the gospel.' (11) Both for our own sakes, and for the Kingdom of God we must aim to live so that n-Xns are drawn to us, whatever circumstances or condition we are in. This is a hard call - many nowadays want things so quickly [and he said that in '65 - what about today?] but a diet of junk-food will not produce well-nourished Xns.

What causes such a condition? Temperament is key, so we must know ourselves well because we are all different - introvert or extrovert, and so on - and thus know how to deal with our peculiar struggles and issues. Physical condition is also important, since it cannot be isolated from the spiritual, and when weak we at greatest risk of attack. The third and greatest cause is Satan, who loves to depress God's people. Thus finally 'the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief.' (20)

What are the treatments? We have to take ourselves in hand. 'We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us!' (20) So: 'The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to yourself: "why art thou cast down" - what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: "Hope thou in God" - instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way.' (21)

2. The True Foundation
"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Rom 3:28)

The issue of spiritual depression is more common in those brought up in a religious manner than those not - and thus more likely to affect those brought up in Xn homes. At this point we need to be clear with them about what being a Xn means (which is not to presume them unconverted, but rather to think that they might be confused).

The area which most often demonstrates confusion in this type of person, leading to the depression we're thinking about, is their misunderstanding of justification - thinking it to be achieved by keeping the law.

First, a true conviction of sin is a great thing, driving many to Christ. Vital here is to compare ourselves to God, not other humans. Further, we must ask 'Do I know God? Is Jesus real to me?' Which is not to ask whether we know things about him, but whether we are enjoying God, whether he is the centre of life and greatest source of joy, as he is meant to be. If we have never realised our sinfulness, we may never have joy in Christ.

Secondly, we need to understand that God's way of salvation is in Christ, and his righteousness. He has been punished for our sins, being propitiation, having them placed upon him - and we have been clothed in his righteousness. If someone says that they know they're not good enough to be a Xn, this is very revealing - they are still thinking in terms of themselves. It sounds modest, but is a lie of the devil, a denial of the faith.

Look entirely to Christ and say:
'My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu's blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust my sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu's name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand..
'The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do,
My Saviour's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.'


Blogger Mandy said...

Thanks T.

One of those books I've menat to read but never got to ... now I can enjoy the summary and your thoughts before dipping my toe in.

8:33 am, November 01, 2006  
Blogger Mandy said...

Knew i should have pressed preview the above should read 'meant'

8:34 am, November 01, 2006  
Blogger Andrew said...

Clearly you've been doing too much typing recently!

12:12 pm, November 02, 2006  
Blogger Beckie said...

Does he cover "medical depression" in his idea of "spiritual depression" - the line "the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief" concerns me if this is the case, and makes me think of prosperity gospel... if he's not dealing with "medical depression" that might be less objectional.

11:16 pm, November 02, 2006  
Blogger Andrew said...

Good point!

I've not read the whole book yet, so can't comment infallibly on that, but I guess he doesn't cover 'medical depression' as such. and I guess there's at least three reasons.

1. He's writing in 1965, and thinking on this stuff has changed a lot in the last 40 years - there is mucyh greater awareness now than then.

2. He's not writing about 'Depression' but 'Spiritual Depression' and so is self-consciously focussing on the spiritual.

3. We'll probably get to this tomorrow (or whenever I do my next few chapters' summary) but he does talk quite a bit about temprament and physical condition as relating to our spiritual state.

When we get to the ened, you can let us know if you're convinced!

9:44 am, November 03, 2006  
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